Security Fencing | The Art of Design

Not all security fencing is created equal; because how a fence is used, dictates how it is designed. The general purpose for a security fence is to define and/or to secure a restricted area. So, it could be a simple barrier, put up to prevent access to a pool; or a complex prison fence structure.  Both, might be made of the same material, but they vary greatly in the height, equipment and design.

Screen vs Barrier

Drive along a Columbus neighborhood street, and you will probably come across a restaurant or retail shop.  Tucked out of sight will likely be a dumpster; their trash has to go somewhere. And around that dumpster will be a fence. Although the fence helps deter the occasional dumpster diver, it’s not there for security; it’s there for camouflage.  Most municipalities require businesses to screen the eyesore from view.

Now drive just a bit farther out of the neighborhood, and you might see the same kind of enclosure; but it may be for an altogether different purpose.  For instance, Ohio legalized use of medical marijuana in 2016.  Since then, grow facilities, processers and dispensaries have cropped up along the city fringes.  Like any business, they have waste.  Although trash that makes its way from a dispensary to the dumpster is not medical waste, it may attract dumpster hopefuls.  (NOTE: there are different marijuana waste disposal procedures). So, facilities that deal in controlled substances safeguard their waste behind more beefed-up fence systems.

Prison Fencing

When I think of a prison, I envision a fortress with castle-like walls; Attica for instance.  However, many of today’s correctional facilities are enclosed by a series of chain link fences along the perimeter.  Security fencing engineering for a correctional institution is an art form unto itself.  Yes, there’s chain-link and razor wire, but there are at least a dozen points of design in every 6-foot span; both seen and unseen.

Security fencing wrapped in barbed wire and re-wrapped with coils of razor wire

Although the design may vary from facility to facility, the general building blocks are the same. You have a tall chain link fence; 12-foot or higher.  The top is usually wrapped with barbed wire and re-wrapped with continuous coils of razor wire. Depending on the security level of the prison, there may be multiple rows or layers of fencing.  Then, more razor wire spiraled along the ground between the rows.  But those are the security elements you can see.  There are components to a perimeter security fence that are less obvious; such as anti-climb mesh and tunnel barriers. 

Just as the name suggests, anti-climb mesh is another layer of security installed on the inside of a prison fence.  It is generally a steel mesh with small links or openings so you can still have an unobstructed view through the fence.  But the small openings prevent people from gaining a foot or hand hold. Add to that a non-lethal electric charge to the fence and tunnel barriers below ground, and you have a recipe to discourage a potential prison breaker.

Technology, Icing on the Cake

Technology plays an equal part in the security design.  If you take a close look at a prison fence you will see wiring that runs horizontally along the entire length of fencing.  This is referred to as a Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS); or shaker wire.  You touch the fence, the PIDS immediately signals the control room that you are touching the fence.  Although the control room was already watching.  Because the surveillance cameras parked strategically around the facility, were following you; even before you touched the fence.